What if Your Husband Wants You to Work–But You Want to Stay at Home?

by | Jun 10, 2020 | Uncategorized | 47 comments

What do you do if you disagree about whether or not the wife should work?

We talk a lot about the “mommy wars” between stay at home moms and working moms. But I’ve had a number of women in a different predicament: They really want to stay at home with their kids, but their husband really feels as if they have to work to get some money coming in.

Often the problem goes the other way–he wants her to stay at home, and she wants to work. But today, as we’re tackling balancing the load this month on the blog, I thought I’d try to address some general principles here that may help you as you try to navigate these big decisions.

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And I want to say that I am biased. I really do think that, in general, kids do better if they don’t have to be in full-time childcare. I had a wonderful time as a stay-at-home mom, and chose to give up my career dreams when my kids were born, even if that meant living in a cramped apartment and having no car for four years. At the same time, we were able to do that because Keith had an okay-but-low income job, but we also knew his income would be increasing later, so I know we were very fortunate.

Deciding if you can afford to have a parent stay at home

Our family when we finally bought our first car, when I was 28, when we moved out of Toronto

But we also spent 6 months with Keith working half time and me working half time. I have other family members where the dad is the primary caregiver. Families do things differently, but I did want to state my biases up front. I completely understand the urge to stay at home, and I’m also flabbergasted by America’s lack of maternity leave policy where you have to return to work just weeks after the birth of a baby (I continue to believe that that is inhumane and actually violates basic human rights). So I’d like to help people figure out how a parent can be at home, and that’s what I’m hoping to look at now.

Before you start a discussion on whether she should work, acknowledge that you each have valid points.

Often these conversations are very fraught with tension, though, because we’re approaching them differently. One person is primarily worried about money, and feels they’re just trying to be realistic, and the other is working from what they feel are their values about staying home with kids and their desire to stay home. So before you start, say something like this to each other:

As a family, we need to be responsible with money, and it’s good that we’re concerned about that. We also need to value how our kids are raised, and it does matter what we want. These are all good things. So let’s take a step back and look at the big picture, and see what’s possible.

Don’t get into a power struggle about who’s right. You both have a point; now let’s examine it. There’s no point getting into an argument about whether or not you should work without first doing the homework and seeing what you’re actually dealing with. Sometimes we go around and around on issues but we don’t face the numbers. First things first.

Figure out what kind of lifestyle you’re comfortable with

Remember that whether or not the family needs anyone to work is entirely dependent on how much income the family needs. So figuring out what your family needs is the first step in figuring out if you can afford to stay home. You need to ask questions like:

  • What’s the minimum lifestyle that you are comfortable with?
  • Is it okay to live in apartments until the kids are older?
  • Is it okay to use public transit?
  • Do you need a car? Do you need two?
  • How many bedrooms do you need? Can the kids share?
  • How often do you want to eat out?
  • How low are you comfortable with your clothing budget going?

And as you’re figuring this out, put everything on the table. Remember that one of the biggest determinants of how much money you need is where you choose to live. in Toronto, we were paying more for our two-bedroom apartment than we were for our mortgage, utilities, and property taxes on the 1500 square foot home we bought in the small town we eventually moved to.

Keith and Sheila soon after we bought our house

The day we bought our first house

Keith and I own a rental property in Ottawa. It’s a little townhome, with one parking spot. We figured out that for a family to be able to afford to live in that townhouse and to have a car, and still be able to live life and save a bit of money, the family would need to bring in about $72,000 a year. The thing is, though, families don’t need to live there right from day one. You can raise babies in an apartment. You can move up slowly but surely over the next few years. Decide what you’re willing to settle for now.

Write a detailed budget of how much you need to sustain that lifestyle

Once you figure out what kind of lifestyle you’d be comfortable with–what kind of housing, vehicle, where you’d want to live, etc.–then it’s time to make a detailed budget of your expenses. Now, normally I recommend starting with your income figure when drawing up a budget, and then you divide your income out from there. But in this case, it’s the income that’s the variable, rather than the expenses, so we’re going to do this a bit backwards. We’re going to figure out how much income you actually need to live the minimum lifestyle you’re comfortable with.

Remember to include an emergency fund in  your budget to take care of expenses that you don’t foresee. And if you have children, please also budget for life insurance for both of you. Finally, put aside some money every month for long term savings, even if it’s just a little bit, and for debt repayment, if you have any debt.

To help you with that, here are some budgeting worksheets you can use.

 

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If there’s a shortfall, figure out how much that shortfall is and brainstorm ways to fill it

Now that you’ve calculated how much money you need to sustain your lifestyle, you can start doing the real math. What is your current income? How much can the husband (assuming it’s the husband who is working) earn? Do you have a shortfall?

If your lifestyle requires $48,000 a year, and your husband makes $40,000, then you have a shortfall of $8000. That sounds like a part-time job or small business could likely recoup those costs. If your lifestyle costs $62,000, and your husband brings in $30,000, then that’s a different story.

Once you’ve figured out your shortfall, then, brainstorm ways to make it up. Do you need a full-time second job? Do  you have any skills that could earn you some money part-time? My girls, for instance, if they ever needed to, could each teach piano through private lessons. It wouldn’t take many lessons a week to make $8000 a year. They’ve also both worked as lifeguards, and it wouldn’t take long to re-certify and do a shift or two a week at the gym to earn that $8000, or even more.

Determine the cost of a second job

If you decide that a second job is necessary, remember that that job will have costs associated with it. Baby-sitting, for instance, is a huge cost. I know some families who have tried to avoid this by having one spouse work full-time and the other work part-time at alternate hours. That can work, but in the long run it’s very difficult on a marriage, because you so rarely have time alone.

Also, what’s the cost of transportation to that job? Do you need a second car? Do you need work clothes? Remember, too, that if you work, you’re more likely to order in for dinner because you’re tired, or to buy lunch (or even coffee) out.

When Connor stopped working outside the home and started running the technical side of Bare Marriage, he was able to work from home. And we discovered something surprising. We ended up saving between $225 and $375 a month simply by using less gas and by eating more at home. When I had to pick up Connor from work every night, it was way too easy to stop in and order Chinese food or shawarma for dinner. But when we were at home, going for shawarma would require getting changed out of our pyjama pants. So we ate through our fridge! Also, we were surprised how much we were spending on coffee everyday.

Rebecca Lindenbach

Determine the savings of staying at home

Having one spouse stay at home also can have financial benefits to the family–if the spouse sees that as part of the job!

My daughter Katie, for instance, has chosen to stay at home because her husband David is in the military and is often out on exercises, and when he is home, she wants to also be there to spend time with him. His schedule is so random that there was no way to plan work around it.

So she’s made it her mission to save money on absolutely everything. If they need car repairs done or they need to renegotiate any car leases, she researches beforehand and comes armed with data. She makes wedding shower gifts (she often knits amazing blankets in the couple’s colours) or baby shower gifts. She cooks everything from scratch. And it’s allowed them to live on very little money and save the rest.

We have to weigh the relationship cost of a second job, given my husband’s long and erratic work hours. When he gets a weekend off, I want to know that I can be home too.

As such, we both agreed (which is the key) that our lifestyle is a one-income lifestyle, not a dual-income lifestyle. We don’t go on vacations. We don’t eat out at restaurants unless it’s  a special occasion. We don’t buy the $12 block of artisan cheddar; we buy the $6 Cracker Barrel.

We always say that David makes the money, and I make the money stretch.

Katie Emmerson

Is there a chance for him to stay at home at times as well?

If we’re putting everything out on the table, let’s consider this one, too. A lot of men would love the chance to spend more time with the kids, and it may be that a better arrangement for all of you would be to have both parents work 1/2-2/3 time, rather than one parent work 100% of the time and one parent be home 100% of the time.

In some families, the husband wants the wife to work because she actually can earn more money, and so he’d rather be the one to stay home so that they’re on better financial footing. I know a number of millennial couples where she is a nurse or a doctor, earning quite large salary, while he is working a much lower-paying job. Though she would love to stay at home, when you run the numbers, it just doesn’t make sense.

That’s a tough one for many women, I know. Many of us had a dream of being a stay-at-home mom. But if you are the primary breadwinner, that may not be an option. You may, however, be able to work reduced hours. My cousin is a physician, and she arranges her schedule where she works full-time, with call, for a week at a time, but then she’s off for several weeks. Her husband works a few days a week all the time, so they only need childcare on the days he works when she’s also working. They could be earning a lot more money than they are, but they’d rather have less money and have more time with the kids.

Are you PeaceKEEPING or PeaceMAKING?

There’s a huge difference between the two. And if you don’t get it right–you’ll never be able to feel truly intimate in your marriage.

There’s a better way!

Can you plan work in two-year time frames?

As you’re making these huge decisions, too, remember that you don’t need to decide what you’re going to do forever. You only have to decide what you’re going to do next. Maybe you have a lot of debt that needs to be paid off, and so you will work hard for a few  years, but then you’ll plan to stay at home. Maybe you’ll work hard for a few years because your husband is retraining, and you need your income. But then things may look different. Plan what you’re going to do now, but then also plan a time to re-evaluate.

Every family is different. There isn’t one right way to do things.

Millennials and Generation Z parents seem to value time with each other and with kids far more than they value large homes and cars, if you compare them to my generation, and I think that’s a good thing. And millennials are well-known for being extremely flexible as a generation, too. So use that flexibility and creativity and see what options you can come up with that work for you.

Every family is different. There isn’t one right way to do things.

After all is said and done, though, my biggest recommendation is this one:

Look critically at what lifestyle you honestly want. The choice of what city you will live in and what kind of housing you’re willing to accept is the biggest determinant of what income you will need. If we take time to make these intentional decisions, rather than just doing what’s expected of us, we can often find solutions we didn’t even realize were right in front of us. 

What do you think? Were you able to come up with creative ways to balance work and family? Let’s talk in the comments!

 

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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47 Comments

  1. Doug Hoyle

    That is a tough one to figure out sometimes. In our case, I largely deferred to what my wife wished to do. There have been times that I haven’t been entirely happy with the decision but I have never been entirely unhappy about it either. There are pros and cons whichever way you go. Obviously when my wife worked, we generally had more money. Sometimes that was used to augment my income, especially when we were younger. Other times it was less about the income and more about her needing the work to give her purpose, and there were even times that she volunteered at homes for youth offenders, generally boys who had run afoul of the law and were incarcerated.
    I don’t mean to say that she always got what she wanted either. There were times she didn’t, but the choice was always hers to make, and it was both of our jobs to figure out how to make that work.
    I think it was an area where we were both flexible enough that it never created an issue.

    Reply
  2. Jane Eyre

    This is great, Sheila.
    The one other thing I will add is retirement and emergency funds. Basically, we live on one income and save the other for retirement; our expectation is that Social Security will be limited or non-existent when we retire. Also, having an emergency fund is crucial. Let’s say that your husband’s income covers all of your basic expenses but not much else. Teach piano – an extra $5,000 a year will cover quite a lot of emergency car repairs or medical bills.
    We’ve saved a pile of money during the pandemic, working from home. It works out to about 1/5th of my income. So long term, we would like to figure out how to make that happen on a more regular basis. But it makes no sense for me to leave my job.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Great points, Jane! Thank you.
      (And I think many people have saved a ton of money the last few months. I heard that a record amount of credit card debt was paid off. Of course, that doesn’t bode well for the economy as a whole, or for those who have been laid off, but at least individually some of us can get ahead. My heart aches for those who can’t).

      Reply
      • Jane Eyre

        The pandemic is either a horrible thing causing untold pain (losing a business, not being with family as they die) or has actually given people much needed work/life balance and allowed them to save some money.
        Due to quirks in how the American system works (normal unemployment plus an extra $600/month), some people are making more unemployed than they normally make. I’m glad that people are using that to get ahead instead of buying huge TVs or something.
        Oh, maternity leave. The American system is crazy. A lot of it is because all these different coalitions and special interest groups want different things for different reasons, so there’s no common ground.

        Reply
      • Rachel C

        Exactly. We are in better financial shape right now than we have ever been. My husband’s job is essential, so he has kept working the whole time. I was already a stay-at-home mom and didn’t have to worry about what to do when they closed schools and such. For working during the Corona virus, my husband has gotten one bonus from his company and is supposed to be getting a second one. This is on top of getting a stimulus payment from the government. And we hadn’t used much of our large tax refund either, so it’s all piling up in the bank, and we now consistently have around $8,000. It’s so nice being able to pay the bills ahead of when they’re due, and I think if we remain wise with our spending and providing there’s not a ton of emergencies, I’ll be able to actually pay off the last of my credit card debt in a year or two. It’s a wonderful feeling. And then, I think of all those for whom this was a dreadful time losing jobs and having to close businesses, and my heart sinks.

        Reply
  3. Becky Miller

    When considering childcare costs, don’t forget to look at an au pair! If you have several children and can arrange for an open bedroom in your house, an au pair is a cost-effective and fun childcare option. The au pair is like a bonus family member, so the kids are being cared for consistently in their own home. We have five kids and have had au pairs for the last five years. That enabled me to work part time, mostly from home, and go to grad school while still being home and around my kids a lot. For us it gave us a good balance of affordable childcare and household task support (au pairs can also do chores related to kids like laundry and taking them to practices) while still letting us spend a lot of time at home with our kids.

    Reply
  4. Ina

    It’s such a hard balance. For me, the fact that we would lose money to send the kids to childcare made it an easy choice. That and that my job would be doing childcare for other’s kids… I’d rather be doing all the crafts with my own! I have been able to take another child on here and there to make a little extra for our savings. (When you’re already making lunches and snacks it really isn’t that hard to add just one more kid to the mix! ) I do sometimes worry that I’ll be unhirable when the time comes to return to the work force and when I think about that too long I get stressed.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I hear you, Ina. I was talking to a young woman about this yesterday. I think the big thing is that you always have a plan–if I had to work tomorrow, what would I do that could generate $x (whatever X is to you). For instance, you can start a cleaning company cleaning people’s homes and make abuot $20-$25 an hour where I live (of course your expenses come out of that). Or this young woman is a certified life guard, so she could always go back to that if she had to. Even if it’s not making as much as you could before, there may be options. There are so many options online, too, creating teachers’ materials or homeschooling materials to sell; becoming a virtual assistant; graphic design; copywriting. If people have those skills, they can hone them from home! Even photography and selling stock photos.

      Reply
    • Angela Laverdi

      I think we also need to consider the mental and emotional health of staying home vs working…. Me personally, I do,not have the personality to be a full time SAHM. I did it for 2.5 years and it was actually detrimental to MY welfare mentally. I have been much more patient and loving to my family since I went back to work. Remember also, Proverbs 31 woman was not actually a SAHM…she was very busy outside the home. So dont say that being a SAHM is biblically correct and working is wrong.

      Reply
      • Meghan

        I didn’t get that message from Sheila; she acknowledged her bias from the very beginning. But I definitely get where you’re coming from. In my church it’s assumed that every mother wants to be a SAHM and working moms are pitied, because OF COURSE they’d rather be home with their kids! It can be pretty frustrating to have feelings ascribed to you that you don’t actually have. And I don’t think it’s a good idea to assume all moms would rather be home with their kids, because it creates a very exclusionary worldview that spills out into other facets, like for instance how all the fun family stuff is during the work week, or how you don’t feel like you belong, or how you start to question if you’re really being a good godly mom if you’re working outside the home.

        Reply
        • Angela Laverdi

          I’m sorry, I didnt mean to imply Sheila was saying that..my apologies! I just know that is the general consensus among more conservative Christian households and I personally beleive it is wrong to put people in certain boxes because of their gender.

          Reply
          • Meghan

            @Angela, yes you and I agree. Assuming every mom should stay home with the kids, or would prefer to stay home with the kids and can’t, is no bueno. I know I personally have been affected by that and really don’t feel like I fit in with most of the Christian moms around here.

  5. LA

    Hi Sheila, We’re on the opposite side of this now. Until recently, I’ve been the one staying home with my kids, but now that my husband was laid off, I’m job searching again. He’s been working construction the past couple months, but it’s not steady enough for us. He’s not really thrilled with the idea of being a stay-at-home dad, but since I’m a teacher, the job would be more secure, and he can work weekends to bring in the extra we would need. It’s not ideal, but hopefully it’ll keep us afloat until the economy picks up. I’ve been planning on going back to work anyway, this is just a few years sooner then we’d planned.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That can be tough to be the one working when you’d rather be at home! I know many women in this situation. I hope it works out for you!

      Reply
  6. Hannah

    Of course, for those of us women who love our fields and careers, that’s a major factor. 😉 I love my work!
    Another thing to consider is part of the discussion should include the caution of contingency plans. By that I mean, if spouse A stays home for 10-20 years and has nothing on their resume, and spouse B dies/becomes disabled/leaves/has an affair/pick your disaster of choice, is spouse A going to be able to support themselves and any remaining children?
    My mom drilled that into my head growing up. “I don’t care what you get your degree in,” she’d say, “but you have to get it, and you have to have a way to support yourself, even if you and your husband decide you’ll* stay home for a bit.” She always kept her professional license active for that reason, even though she homeschooled me. Shortly after I left the house and she went back to work full-time, my dad died suddenly and unexpectedly. It was tragic, and she (we) grieved, but she grieved from the stability of a job that was enough to pay all the bills. It would have been a lot harder if she hadn’t been working and had suddenly needed to kickstart a job search–and she still would have been much better off than many, who never worked or had higher ed before they married and had kids. Life insurance can help fill that gap, but it only lasts for so long.
    I really cannot echo her words enough now that I’ve seen such a situation play out in real life. As a contrast, one of the families in our old homeschool group had the opposite happen, husband died, something like 9 kids, and there was no insurance and the wife had no skills or education. It was… not a good situation, to put it lightly. It’s one of those situations you hope you never live through, but you might, and it’s wise to be prepared.
    *In a twist of irony, it’s my husband who we plan to do most of the staying home, since I have a higher income potential right now and he’s much better with kids.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I did the same with my girls–no matter what you do, you have to be able to support yourself and your family if you need to. There is so much that you can do at home and online now, too. But I totally agree with keeping up your credentials!

      Reply
      • Hannah

        Yes! I love the proliferation of online work, although with it as with in real life work, the unskilled work pays very little. My hope is that eventually more societies will move to a system like the Dutch and Swiss (and I’m sure others) have, where it’s acceptable to work part-time and the parents trade off care if they so desire. If you don’t have to worry about health insurance and there’s no corresponding loss of benefits (as is the case in the US), it’s a lovely concept that can be great for everyone. Both parents get the fulfillment and stability that comes from being employed, if they so desire it, and the kids don’t have to spend a full 40 hours or more in daycare, if they’d rather not, since you can have Mom off on Mondays and Dad off on Thursdays or whatnot. Very family friendly.

        Reply
        • Maria B

          That sounds amazing.

          Reply
    • Jane Eyre

      Remember, both spouses need life insurance. If the stay at home spouse dies, the surviving parent needs to pay someone to do the work that used to be done for free.
      I also think people don’t factor in career progression. I am still working because if I left the workforce, it would be extremely hard for me to get back in at the level I am now, let alone at the level I could be at ten years from now. A lot of women assume that they can step back in to the workforce at a good level, but find that they are underqualified for the jobs they left and overqualified for everything else.

      Reply
      • Angela Laverdi

        Oh man, are you right about that. 2.5 years away as a SAHM and when I interviewed for jobs they were like, so..whats the deal with the interim you were unemployed? When I replied I was a SHAM because I had a child, the interviewers be like, ohhhh and got visibly uncomfortable. Shame on them. Was very hard to get back into the workforce because of that stigma.

        Reply
      • Hannah

        Exactly! Totally agreed on the career progression too.

        Reply
  7. Lisa Johnson

    Good ideas to plan together as a couple for how you want to live.
    The big thing that Americans have to worry about is health insurance since it is tied to the job you have.
    It’s very difficult to find a part time job that provides health insurance. And a lot of full time jobs don’t either so a couple must make decisions of where to work and live based on that factor. Many women work full time because her job is the one that provides the insurance for the family.
    Also if you lose your job, you lose your health insurance so it adds risk if only one person has insurance available.
    Even with insurance, it is critical to add savings for copays and health emergencies to your calculations listed since there are many costs to pay even with health insurance.
    If your son in law decided to quit his job to work on the tech stuff in the US health insurance would be a big obstacle of cost to have to navigate in a way it isn’t in Canada. I envy the flexibility and lower costs your medical system provides.
    There seems little chance our political system is going to change this any time soon so it’s a big factor in planning for Americans and limits choices of where and how to work and live.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      You’re so right! I ALWAYS forget to mention health insurance. It’s just not an issue for us here. Sorry for leaving that out! I always try to think about Americans, but sometimes I forget basic stuff because it’s not part of our daily life at all.

      Reply
    • Meghan

      I was just about to write this up!! A big factor for me continuing to work full-time is my benefits: I have free health and life insurance through my employer. I have 3 weeks of paid vacation and 2 weeks of paid sick leave in addition to all the national holidays off (also paid). I get a ridiculously large bonus every December. We simply can’t afford for me to stay home with our daughter because even the cost of daycare doesn’t offset the cost of getting me on my husband’s insurance policy. And we would have to enroll in a bunch of programs (which aren’t free!) to get her out of the house because she’s quite spirited and needs more stimulation than I can provide. And with all the time off I have, I still get loads of quality family time.

      Reply
  8. Kya

    I read a book a couple of years ago called “Your Money or Your Life,” and the premise is that, if someone approached you with a gun and said, “Your money or your life!” what would you do? You would throw your purse at them and run, I hope! But how often in life do we make the opposite decision–pursuing money at the expense of being able to live our lives? The book walks you through several exercises to help you determine how much money you actually need to live a life that highlights your values, so that you really are able to choose life over money. The best one is to keep a detailed record of all of the money that comes into or goes out of your life, sort of like a budget in reverse. Then at the end of the month you break your spending into categories and look at the totals and say, “Am I okay with this? Does spending this much money in this category allow me to live the life I want? Does it fit my values?” Then you can institute behavior changes to bring your spending more in line with your goals and beliefs. I found it very eye-opening.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Kya, that’s so important, and that’s what i want people to do, too. Figure out how much money you need for the life you actually want that matches your values. I think we get caught up in living in certain cities, having a certain house, having cars, that we miss other options (not always; but sometimes).

      Reply
  9. E

    Interesting post. I’m so glad I’ve always been able to stay at home after having kids. Almost 16 years now. And we homeschool. Some days are hard, but I absolutely love being home and homeschooling. I love our easy peaceful days and not being rushed. Maybe that is my personality, but I see so many friend who are so busy with activities they can’t actually be a friend because they have no time to hang out or help anyone.
    So many worry about what others have talked about here: the wife having to go back to work after 20 years at home. I have no concerns about this whatsoever. I’d rather be home with my kids and if something happened to my husband I would make something work. I do have a BA so there is that even if I never had a “career”. We are not rich. My husband has worked multiple minimum wage jobs and went to school. So now we are doing better. But we have usually been able to save a lot. We are minimal and thrifty. I just want to encourage those who are at home or wanting to take the plunge. If you’re both on the same page you can do this! All my sisters wish they could have stayed home, but weren’t able to. Don’t have regrets!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I always felt so blessed to be able to stay at home, too, even if it meant small apartments and no cars for a while.

      Reply
  10. EfficiencyNerd

    Have you heard of the FI/FIRE movement and ideas? Many of the themes you’re talking about here have a very similar vein. My fiance and I live frugally and are able to save about 50% of our combined income between the two of us, and this will increase even further when we get married (this fall!) and drop to paying only one rent. By focusing on the things that truly matter to us, and not spending on things we don’t really care about, we’ve gotten our expenses very low.
    By saving a large chunk of income now, we’re setting ourselves up to have options when we have kids in the future. We might even both decide to take a full year off from work when having a baby, before deciding how to continue earning. And in all likelihood, before any of our future kids reach high school, we will have reached the point where any paid work becomes optional and is no longer necessary.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s amazing! I love that so much. Being able to cut back on work when the kids are small (or even when they’re teens) is so amazing. So often we get reduced time at work right when the kids are leaving home. To change the order and have time when you’re actually with your kids still at home is brilliant.

      Reply
    • She

      We are pursuing the same thing – investing to earn enough passive (i.e., rental) income that will replace my salary so that I could eventually stay home with the kids. I have 3 kids under age 7 and i hope to be able to stay home full time in 6 years. We are on our track because, like you, we started early, even before we got married.
      I really feel the desire to stay at home with my kids even if they’d be a little older when I eventually retire from full time work. However, I feel the pressure to continue working and earning (even after we reach the required passive income to make work optional) just because — I don’t exactly know, it’s what you are supposed to do? I’m also afraid that it would be too late to become a SAHM then as my kids would be in school and may not need me much anyway). I’m continuously soul-searching and praying for God’s guidance on this.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I think the time it’s most beneficial to be home, in many ways, is in the high school years! having a parent at home to talk to after school is so important. And it’s in those years that kids can make really bad decisions if they get in with the wrong peer group or if they’re lonely. So being the safe house where kids all hang out and where you get to know their friends is a tremendous blessing in those years!

        Reply
  11. Wild Honey

    I agree with what Sheila is saying about balancing work/family and income/lifestyle. I’d like to offer a caveat, just based on observing family dynamics of friends (both growing up and now as an adult) and myself: if there are already unhealthy dynamics in a marriage or family, one spouse changing their work situation is not, by itself, likely to solve the underlying problems. I know plenty of families with SAHM’s with dynamics I wouldn’t want in my family, and plenty with dynamics I try to emulate.
    For the record, I’m a SAHM, my husband works a traditional 40 hrs/week job with roughly four weeks paid vacation and holidays. In my family of origin, one parent worked part-time and the other was a school teacher who took summers off, which was a good balance for the whole family.

    Reply
  12. Wifey

    Hey Katie- another fellow stay at home wife! I know the world looks at us weird when we technically *could* be working outside of the home, but it’s an option that many people forget could even work! In our case, my husband works from home and I was able to be on call to help him with his business till our first was born a year and a half ago. I still have flexibility to make calls and do little things to assist him in his work, enabling him to make more money by being more efficient. I did teach lessons a few hours a week before little man arrived which I loved. My hope is to pick up a few music students when my kiddos are a little older, just to have some spare change around. I knew a lady where she and her husband had an arrangement that anything she earned teaching music lessons she could feel free to keep out of the general household budget and use for her own projects, extra gifts, or to save for whatever she liked. I thought that was a great idea because I’m a gift giver and it would be great to give beyond our current budget! I also am super grateful that my 10 years of teaching is an excellent money maker to support our family should (heaven forbid) my husband was unable to work. In my area, I could make right at $30 an hour teaching, so it wouldn’t take all that many students to sustain our already very thrifty and frugal lifestyle! I didn’t go to college and don’t think it’s for everyone, however I do believe everyone, male or female, must have skills that could enable them to earn a living no matter how they expect their home life to look.

    Reply
  13. Liz

    I thought there was a lot of good stuff in this, my only quibble was with the part about “they could always teach piano”. I am a violin teacher, and it has taken a long while and hard work to build a student base, students aren’t just there for the asking. But perhaps it is different for piano. And there is the aspect that knowing how to play is different that being able to teach. I learned lots of teaching techniques while in college for music ed that I use all the time.
    But, all that being said, it works for our family. My husband takes the baby and gets some bonding time, and I get a brain break for a few hours to teach, which I enjoy. Plus the income enables me to be a stay at home mom, which I am loving.
    I love your work and I am so glad someone is providing resources to help marriages. My husband and I have gained a lot from your writing, and I am already planning to get “the whole story” for my son in a few years.

    Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      Yeah I will say in my experience that piano is a MUCH easier instrument to get students for. I had a small student base without even advertising, I just talked to my neighbourhood. And you’re also right that they are very different skill sets, and I only taught up to RCM grade 3 since I had my grade 8. But the fact remains that if we had to, Katie and I had the choice to teach little ones piano because we had that skill. But perhaps if you knew a less widespread instrument like French Horn or Violin or something it would be much more difficult. 🙂

      Reply
  14. Arwen

    Thank you Sheila for another great post that i can pass on to women who aren’t able to be stay at home moms. I really appreciate how your solution can be done by people in less privilege environments. Being a stay at home mom is a privilege that the poor who must survive on two in come household are just not capable of doing. I’m surrounded by people like this and these are some good tips they can adapt into their lifestyle. Thank you!

    Reply
  15. Bailey Cummins

    I so agree with Katie’s point about wanting to be home when your husband is home if he works long, erratic hours. My husband is also in the military and I want to spend every minute with him that I can! While we were paying off debt, I had to take a retail job, which meant we worked opposite schedules. It stunk, but at the time he wasn’t deploying/on training exercises as much, which was a huge blessing. I’m SO thankful that now I’m able to work in my career field remotely, wherever the Army sends us. I am one of those moms who never wanted to be a SAHM and thrives off working outside of the home, so it was difficult to accept my career path would look different once I became an Army wife and after I was pregnant, but the Lord provided. I work part-time so that I can spend time with my baby in the afternoons. Plus, it’s very important to me to have a “back up” career if, God forbid, something happens to my husband and he’s no longer in the military. It seems a little pessimistic or morbid to think about, but working in Human Resources I’ve seen firsthand how difficult it can be to jump back in the workforce after an extended absence. I honestly feel like we live the best of both worlds with me working part-time in my professional career field and I do not take it for granted!
    Side question, did Katie stop Youtubing/social media? I miss watching her videos!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi, Bailey! She did step back from YouTube for various reasons once she married. They’re pretty happy where they are right now, but she’s thinking about different options going forward. She is going to start editing some video for me. I totally hear you about a back up job. She does have a lot of really marketable skills, but she doesn’t have a desire to work right now. It’s good that she can if she wants to, though!

      Reply
  16. Rachel

    This is a great post that resonates with me. So important for couples to be able to make decisions that reflect their needs and desires, not simply go along with the “normal” they are surrounded with.
    I am Australian and married my husband who is Brasilian when he was still on a student visa here. I worked full-time and he worked part time. When he got his temporary residency (which allowed him to work full-time), we moved states and I stayed studying, and worked part-time. Most of the time he could only find part-time jobs. Then I got pregnant… Oops! Haha! So then when baby arrives, we were down to 1 part-time income. I do not know how we did it! But we did!!
    Staying at home for a while with baby was important to both of us, so I stayed home for a year.
    Then got a great part-time job (and my sister in law lived with us so babysat!!).
    Then my sister in law went back to Brasil so we were a bit stuck on childcare.
    But… My husband’s work offered me a part time job!… With awful pay! But when we talked through it, we knew I needed just a couple days a week to get out of the house and do something else; and my husband was keen for more time with our daughter. So we accepted the offer, moved next door to our workplace, and for over a year he worked full-time and I worked part-time, basically tag-teaming it for being with our daughter!
    So while my income literally halved, the flexibility and family-friendly environment was perfect for us and we choose to do it!
    We have made these different situations written and as each season arises we continue to be open to all the options.

    Reply
  17. Anon

    I found Katie’s story of how much money she is able to save by being at home so encouraging.
    My fiance is a church minister, so his working hours can be long and his day off tends to move around, depending on what needs to be done during the week. I am self employed, which has given me sufficient flexibility that I could move my free time around to match his on most weeks – otherwise, there would have been months when we would barely have seen each other. But due to an ongoing health problem, I’ve been struggling to work as many hours as I used to. I have looked at getting an employed position, but we’ve both been concerned that the loss of flexibility in work hours would impact our ability to spend quality time together. So it’s been encouraging to hear how much Katie has been able to save through being at home – hopefully, I’ll be able to make enough savings to balance out reduced working hours, if it comes to this long-term. (Plus of course, we will only be paying for one set of household bills once we marry – we’ve had to postpone our wedding due to Covid, but will be heading up the aisle just as soon as restrictions are lifted here!)

    Reply
    • Shelly

      Maybe Katie could write up a blog post on tips for SAHM to save money? I’m about to have my first baby and we will be down to one income which is quite stressful. I really want to stay at home for as long as I can, but may have to go back to work. Any tips to make this work on one income would be awesome!

      Reply
      • E

        Yes, that would be a great post. We have been on one income since my oldest was born 15 years ago. Here are my best money saving tips:
        -pay as you go phones
        -unplug everything before bed
        -hang laundry to dry
        -cook from scratch
        -no extras like subscriptions/Netflix
        -find local free entertainment
        -become minimalists (Even kids don’t really need more than 5-6 outfits). Easier to keep clean too.

        Reply
        • Angela Laverdi

          Actually cut the cable TV and only do internet and Netflix…Netflix is only 12 dollars a month while cable TV can be 150 or more!!

          Reply
          • E

            We don’t do either. ☺️ Movies and shows at library.

  18. Maria B

    I love how you pointed out so many different options to choose from. It’s not a choice between mom staying at home full-time or childcare. Dad could take care of the kids. Plus, the advice for how to discuss if you have a disagreement. How much income do you actually need? What options do you have?

    Reply

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